The ultimate reverence students can show to their teachers is to adapt the values their gurus teach but practice in life. Prof Ramalingam was by any criteria was one such rare teacher.
He passed away (at 78) on June 6, 2014 and as per his wish, his body was donated to JSS Medical College. His students, friends and colleagues have recently brought out a book to share their experience of working with him.
There are 41 articles describing different aspects of Prof Ramalingam’s contribution to the society and many articles hold a mirror to some sad features of Mysore which our society would like to ignore.
The book is timely. Our society today has plenty of budding, middle aged and old political leaders and our university and colleges have thousands of teachers with varying degree of competence. But we hardly have competent professors who are interested to promote societal causes. As a result our students do not have a good role model. The book has several articles describing how Prof Ramalingam was their role model.
When De Ja Gow was the VC of Mysore University in 1972, and there were out of turn admissions and his students Dr Shenoy (current MGP secretary) and Rati Rao (the moving force behind Samatha) were beaten up while taking part in protests led by Prof Ramalingam. He was in the forefront of a movement to fight casteism in 1985 when there was an agitation following Kuvempu’s article on Brahmanism which was misinterpreted.
Prof Ramalingam’s students have admired his ability to devote time to teaching and research as well as to social causes. For him it was not just 8 hours job as is the case for most of the university and college professors today. On 24X7 basis he devoted time for teaching, research and getting involved in social issues. How many of our professors today invite their students home to discuss research and social issues?
Do our professors who are ever ready to criticise casteism take the smallest initiative to fight it? On the other hand most of them indulge in activities in the crassest way to perpetuate it. It was inspiring to read how Prof Ramaligam took keen interest to fight casteism. When his students had problems of inter-caste marriages, he succeeded in convincing the parents.
He intermingled with the poor and illiterate residents of Kukkarahalli who used to be looked down upon by the so called upper caste people. When the professor went to their houses, sang songs on equality, helped the poor, supported workers’ rights, they were shocked with the kindness bestowed by a stranger. He ate with them which was unheard of. This was much before it has become a fashion for our political leaders to gain “popularity”.
Though he was a mere professor, he found enough resources to support poor students. Rajasab, the current VC of Tumakuru University and Dr Shenoy, retired scientist, were given money to complete their theses.
Kukkarahalli was his playground to promote his firm belief in Marxism. Along with other leftists he used to participate in a library started in the name of Mahadevappa to propagate Marxist philosophy.
It is true that Marxist philosophy has been discarded even in its birth place Russia. China for all practical purposes has given up on Marxism. But these developments should not detract those believing in capitalism from appreciating Ramalingam. In the final analysis, helping the poor is the kernel of Marxism in which many capitalists also believe.
It is that value which was driving Ramalingam to get involved to fight against casteism, corruption, unequal opportunities and distribution of wealth, defrauding consumers, polluted water, etc. This sterling quality of Ramalingam is discussed with several anecdotes in this book.
No author has dealt with the circumstances under which one of the most unforgettable VCs of Mysore University, Dr Rudrappa managed to get him transferred to Dharwad University. After his retirement, he returned to Mysore where he learnt Kannada, wrote Kannada songs and put into practice the real teachings of Marxism by giving up his inherited wealth.
He never owned a house and tried to share his earnings with others who were in need. It is not that Prof Ramalingam was perfect. Despite his drawbacks (like lack of diplomacy, stubbornness, minimum attention to the needs of his immediate family and brusqueness) those who knew him overlooked them because of his indisputable sincerity to help others.
When he came back to Mysore, he spent a great deal of time working with Mysore Grahakara Parishat. Along with MGP, he promoted several easy methods to purify drinking water, detect polluted water, fought against polluted water, adulteration of food, promoted scientific thinking in young students etc.
He initiated the project of preserving heritage trees. What a contrast from city’s retired VCs, army officers, professors, teachers and other professionals. The book shows how Prof Ramalingam was different.
I hope that every school and college, all libraries will buy this book to inculcate the values to get involved in social causes. Democracy does not function unless professionals are ever vigilant as Ramalingam was whether he was working at the university or after retirement.
It is MGP’s good fortune that his illustrious student (who was his first Ph.D. scholar) Dr M. M. Shenoy is now its secretary. We can expect great initiatives from him, a real tribute to his guru.